Friday, December 03, 2010

You've got questions, we've got answers

by Lauren

Recently, we've been asked a number of related questions about aspects of the query process, so I thought I'd try to tackle them here to give prospective clients a helping hand. 
  • Which agent should I query for my work?
There are a fair number of us here and even if you're reading the blog, it can be tough to figure out just which of us might be the right agent for you.  On our website, each agent has a bio listing our areas of interest, and that's a very good place to start.  Beyond that, most books have an acknowledgments section that will tell you who represented them.  If you feel your book would sit comfortably alongside others on the shelf (and you should know which those are before you query anyway), try the agents who represented them.  And if you're querying us because you think your work would appeal to the same readers as something on our list does, let us know in the query!

  • What if I have a few options and the person I select doesn't bite?  Should I query another agent at the agency for that project?
There's overlap in categories and finer points of taste that are hard to suss out if you don't know us well.  Fortunately, we do know each other's taste very well.  It's not unusual for us to pass a query along to a colleague because we feel they'd be a better fit.  Even after we've read a partial or manuscript, we regularly share with our colleagues here to get another opinion or see if it might be up their alley.  That does mean a rejection from an agent here is a rejection from the agency, and you shouldn't try us all in turn.  You especially shouldn't try us simultaneously.  We won't compete internally, and no one likes to spend their time reading something only to find that another of our colleagues is already pursuing it. 

  • What if you've already rejected my manuscript, but I've thoroughly revised it?
First, I'd caution you to be honest about how thorough your revisions are.  If you've genuinely made it substantially different (and, one hopes, better) then we don't at all mind if you come back to us and offer it again.  Just be up front about it when you do, and if we think that a re-read might be to our and your benefit, we'll be happy to do so.  No one knows better than us how much difference revision can make! 

  • If you turn me down, can you give me editorial feedback?
If we haven't offered it ourselves in the rejection, no.  There are times when we feel we have constructive feedback to give and in those cases we do provide it.  We might say that we don't think it works, and we think we know why.  We might say that we think there are key issues that if revised might make the book workand if we feel strongly about that, we might ask you to consider resubmitting to us if you make those changes.  If we don't offer editorial feedback in our response, it's because we don't have it to offer.  Either we have no vision for what's wrong and needs fixing, or we don't feel confident that we have the right grasp on the project or enough enthusiasm for it to point you in the right direction.  It's too subjective for us to make pronouncements on the problems with everything that doesn't work for us, and we could easily lead you astray and send you off working on edits that will hinder rather than help your chances of finding the agent who does get what you're doing.

  • If you turn me down, can you give me a recommendation to another agent?
The nature of the business allows us to know what editors are looking for much more than what other agents seek.  As such, we can’t offer recommendations for agents outside the agency.


I hope this is helpful!  Keep in mind that not all agents feel the same way about all things, but these general guidelines apply to the way we work here at DGLM.  It pays to do your research on the agents you're targeting, rather than assuming that they will feel the same way on the questions you might have.

7 comments:

  1. great advice thank you, but dont other agents feel you are adding to their pile of work if you send a manuscript over to them?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the tips! It's good to know about the query one-in-all practice. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. We've all signed up projects that our fellow DGLMers directed our way, so it's a good system for us. Who knows what the agency would miss out on if we never shared? We know each other's taste well enough to know when it's help rather than a burden. (Though our work piles thank you for the concern!!) -Lauren

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yes - it was very helpful for me! Especially the part about re submitting after revisions. I didn't know that being honest, a great thing, was appreciated and acknowledged on your end.

    Seeing that I'm the Queen of re re re re re re re re editing my scripts, that was the best news I've heard in awhile!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks so much for taking the time to post this. It's beyond valuable to us (writers/dreamers) to have the opportunity to peek in your head's and understand better how to go about some of the steps in this fantastical process!!

    I have one question, would most agents prefer a query letter or a verbal pitch? I’m attending several writer conferences next year and might have the opportunity to share my pitch with different agents, but I would assume (and you know where that might get me) that most agents would want a query instead, giving you the opportunity to digest what you are looking at before asking to see more.

    Thanks again!!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Laurie, as a rule agents are not usually looking for a verbal pitch, but the scenario you describe is the exception. Nearly all writers conferences involve pitch sessions, so in that case the agents are arriving expecting and wanting authors to pitch to them verbally. You shouldn't call them on the phone to pitch to them, but at a conference the verbal pitch is the way to go. Pitch sessions don't guarantee success, but in that moment your odds of a request are probably better than they possibly can be with a query battling for attention in the slush pile.

    -Lauren

    ReplyDelete
  7. Thanks so much for the advice. Happy Holidays!

    ReplyDelete